UK Politics

Syria arms: Parliament would get vote, Hague pledges

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Media captionWilliam Hague: "As things stand the world is failing the people of Syria"

Parliament would get to vote before the UK sent any arms to Syrian opposition forces, William Hague has said.

More than 80 Conservative MPs have written to David Cameron urging Parliament to be consulted if the UK decides to provide any weapons.

The foreign secretary told the BBC that while there was no established procedure for such a situation, there "will be a vote one way or another".

He also suggested MPs could be recalled if they were in recess at the time.

The UK and France have led calls for more support for the official opposition in Syria, but MPs from all parties have warned of the dangers of escalating a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 80,000, and of strengthening extremist elements.


The EU lifted its embargo on arms to either side in the conflict last month, but the UK has insisted no action will be taken immediately and its focus is on planned peace talks in Geneva and efforts to secure a negotiated settlement.

Mr Hague told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that any decision to send arms into the war zone would be "controversial" and that people justifiably had "strong views" about the issue.

He said the UK would be "very reluctant" to send arms but the reality was that tens of thousands of people were being killed and that forces opposed to the Syrian government did not have the means to defend themselves.

"As things stand today, the world is failing the people of Syria," he said.

Pressed on whether Parliament would be given a chance to vote on the issue before any decision was taken, he said there was no established procedure but the government had a "very good record" of seeking Parliamentary consent.

"There would be a vote one way or another. I can't see any reason why it would not be before any decision was implemented."

'One-sided war'

The EU has said the situation will be reviewed again on 1 August, leading some MPs to express concerns that a decision could be taken during the six-week summer recess when Parliament is not sitting.

But Mr Hague said: "I think if we were making such a decision and it was very controversial, there would be a huge demand for the recall of Parliament and I think I can be very reassuring to MPs about this subject."

Conservative MP Julian Lewis has suggested the government would be "unwise" to proceed without consulting Parliament and there was a strong possibility that the government would lose any vote.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Lewis said that if ministers thought they could "get this thing through behind Parliament's back during the recess, they are having to think again".

But Conservative MP Brooks Newmark, who has met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on several occasions, said it was clear the Syrian leader was "willing to destroy Syria completely and kill its people in vast numbers to protect his family".

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said the conflict was currently "one-sided", with the authorities receiving military support from Russia and Iran, while the opposition was fragmented and under-equipped.

"The Syrian rebels urgently need their own surface-to-air missiles and tank-busters to have any chance of winning. Britain can and should supply them with them," he said.